A News Story about John MacArthur Shows Why We Need Fixing

by | Feb 10, 2023 | Abuse, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 38 comments

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John MacArthur has sent abused women back to their husbands.

It is horrific. Julie Roys broke a story last year about Eileen Gray. Twenty years ago she came to the church leadership at Grace Community Church for help for her abusive marriage. Her husband was abusing her and the kids (and was later discovered to be sexually abusing them). She was told to submit more. She got a restraining order, and she was excommunicated from the church.

When her husband was sent to jail for abuse, the church supported him and continued to badmouth her. 

Since Roys broke the story, more women have come forward. Now, a former elder, who left the church because it refused to make things right with Eileen Gray, has also come forward about the callous and evil way the church has treated abused women.

And Christianity Today has just published a bombshell article featuring eight women’s stories of how Grace Community Church handles abuse. 

This is a very important article and I ask you all to read the whole thing.

It’s interesting–yesterday I was finishing up recording a podcast where I share a woman’s story who was put under church discipline for wanting to divorce her abusive husband who had been sexually abusing her for years. And right after I finished recording that, I sat down at my computer and saw this article. 

This stuff doesn’t just happen at Grace Community Church. It happens everywhere where churches value male leadership over female safety. And unfortunately, that is widespread in evangelical churches today.

I’ll share a few excerpts from the story. It starts with how the former elder, Hohn Cho, became aware of the horrendous counseling being given at the church to women in abusive marriages (and remember–this church has membership covenants, so if  you disobey leadership they will spread your name across the church body as someone being in persistent sin):


“When my wife and I were asked by a friend to pray for a woman my wife happened to know, she reached out in concern, and we were horrified to discover the same awful patterns of counseling were still happening at GCC,” Cho told CT.

“This is when I sadly came to believe beyond any personal doubt that GCC congregants who we still love could effectively be playing Russian roulette if they ever needed counseling at GCC, especially anything involving the care of women or children. I knew I could not pass by silently on the other side of the road, that I needed to help this woman and to call out a warning, or else the blood of the people would be on my head.”

Kate Shellnutt

"Grace Community Church Rejected Elder’s Calls to ‘Do Justice’ in Abuse Case", Christianity Today

Christianity Today then starts to share about what women were told when they went for counseling:

“Whenever I made moves in the direction of the restraining order, it was, ‘Be careful of the heart of retaliation,’” the woman said. “They were telling me to back off, essentially. … They were saying it was un-Christian of me to seek that legal protection because believers don’t take other believers to court.”

She said she had reported to church leaders evidence of her husband’s infidelity, searches for incest porn, and inappropriate behavior with their daughter starting when she was just a couple years old.

A month after moving back in with her husband at the request of their pastors, she called 911 out of fear during an argument on the road. In court filings obtained by CT, she stated pastor and elder Rodney Andersen told her that she should submit to her husband “as unto the Lord” rather than provoke him. The domestic violence officers dispatched to the scene, she said, told her not to return to home.

Two GCC elders went on to submit sworn statements on behalf of her husband. Andersen’s declaration recounts the husband saying during counseling that he and his daughter had touched tongues while they kissed to imitate a scene in a cartoon.

Kate Shellnutt

"Grace Community Church Rejected Elder’s Calls to ‘Do Justice’ in Abuse Case", Christianity Today

If anyone ever wonders why I consistently counsel women NOT to go to their churches in cases of abuse, this is why! Please, call the secular authorities (unless your church has trained people on staff about domestic violence and has been known to provide shelters and help women who are escaping abuse).

Here is the type of “biblical counseling” women were getting at Grace Community Church:


Multiple women named Bill Shannon, a pastor of counseling and ACBC fellow, as discouraging them from reporting abuse to police and directing them to stay in homes where they had been threatened with violence. One couple said they observed a counseling session where Shannon failed to advise a member of their family to report a man who had confessed to an incident of child molestation; he also did not direct her to leave him, since he hadn’t been convicted.

“In the first meeting with Bill Shannon, it was made known that my safety was not the No. 1 priority; it was submission in my marriage,” said one woman, who asked not to be named in this story because she is attempting to move on from her time at Grace Community Church. “My job was not to rile [my husband] up.”

While the woman was hospitalized due to her husband’s physical abuse, Shannon called her and advised her to go home without calling police, she told CT. At times, the torment at home was bad enough that she worried she was going to die, but she said she was told that her situation may be “God’s will for your life.”

Kate Shellnutt

"Grace Community Church Rejected Elder’s Calls to ‘Do Justice’ in Abuse Case", Christianity Today

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The article has so much more like this. Again, please read it.


If you believe you may be a victim of abuse, please contact your local Domestic Violence Hotline

  • Canada: 800.799.SAFE (7233)
  • United States: 1-800-621-HOPE (4673).
  • United Kingdom: 08 08 16 89 111
  • Australia: 1 800 737 732
  • New Zealand: 0800 456 450
  • Kenya: 0-800-720-072
  • Nigeria: 0800 033 3333
  • South Africa: 0800 428 428

John MacArthur runs one of the biggest training programs for biblical counseling–The Master’s University and Seminary.

I have “fixed” some of the teachings being given in that university, and they appear in my new Fixed It for You book, like this one, from the head of the biblical counseling ministry:

John Street Fixed It for You

Ideas have consequences. 

This news article is horrific, but it is not surprising to me. This is the natural result of a theology that believes that God wants men in authority and power over women. This is the natural result when women are denied a seat at the table; when women’s voices are discounted because they are “easily deceived” and because their main sin is trying to usurp control from men; when you believe that men need unconditional respect.

When you are steeped in that theology, it’s not that far a leap to telling women that it may be God’s will that they suffer, even unto death, for the sake of submission to their husbands. 

That’s why we need to fight these ideas. 

We need to stop saying, “Oh, he gets some things wrong, but he’s a great Bible teacher.” Really? He’s a great Bible teacher, even if he thinks women should return to abusive husbands? How can you be a good Bible teacher and be that uncaring? 

By their fruits you will recognize them. 

We need to stop supporting churches that do this. As I shared on a podcast at the beginning of the new year, when you attend a church that treats abuse victims this way, you may not be harmed if you’re in a good marriage. But by attending–by giving your money; by volunteering and making their programs good; by giving your seal of approval to this church–you enhance that church’s reputation and reach. And then abused women may go who may not otherwise have gone, and when they go for help, they’ll be horribly hurt. 

When we support these churches, we become complicit.

I’m glad Cho stopped being complicit and came forward.

May we all follow in his steps. This is evil and it must be stopped.

And if you’re looking for a good way to start those conversations with your friends, and point out how horribly evil MacArthur’s worldview is, please pick up my Fixed It for You workbook! It’s under $5, but it can start such great conversations with your spouse, your friends, and even your small group. Or you can use it to process through these thoughts you’re having yourself. 


Together, we can change the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage. 

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Anonymous

    Haven’t read the CT article yet but it’s sad how many feel women should stay because suffering may be God’s will for their marriage YET these same men are not told they should stay because suffering (by not having as much intercourse as they desire) may be the will of God for their marriage. Heaven forbid we should let a penis go unserviced when we could instead have women and children abused, raped, molested, beaten, and murdered.

    Sadly, I know an old friend whose husband moved them out there to attend macarthur’s school and she is going through the biblical counselling program. Knowing her background, I believe she got enough healthy (non-Christian) counselling to heal that I hope she will see through the crap and be one of the good ones, but if her husband orders her to play by the GCC book, then… who knows the damage a truly good-hearted person could inflict.

    • Jo R

      “YET these same men are not told they should stay because suffering (by not having as much intercourse as they desire) may be the will of God for their marriage”

      That would just be cruel! 🙄 🙄 🙄


  2. Anne

    I read through the article when it came out and the thought that ran through my head over and over was, “That is a cruel, cruel god.”

  3. Jo R

    Well, this is the epitome of “Husbands are so like Jesus, per good old Ephesians 5, that they literally do become sinless within a few years of saying ‘I do.'”

    What other logical outcome could such teaching reach?

    🤮 🤬 and even 🖕

    One more time: “Honey, since you have now literally become Jesus, what would you prefer tonight, celibacy or crucifixion?”

    • TN

      “what would you prefer tonight, celibacy or crucifixion?” PERFECTION!

  4. Nathan

    > > believers don’t take other believers to court

    That may be true, but I would say that a person (man or woman) who physically or sexually abuses their spouse and children isn’t really a true believer, no matter how loudly they shout “AMEN!” at sermons.

    > > she said she was told that her situation may be “God’s will for your life.”

    God wants people to be beaten to death by their spouse? There are no words. None.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly. They aren’t true believers. Paul talks about this about how people who do certain things are not believers. But we have reduced the gospel merely to saying, “I believe Jesus died for my sins and is my Saviour”, and as long as you say that, then no matter what else you do, apparently you’re a believer. No thought about actually making Jesus lord or truly repenting.

      • Anon

        It’s part of that Calvinistic bull that teaches “once saved, always saved.” This is not true since we see people fall from the faith and then we have evil people like this who use this warped view of Christianity to justify their own disgusting behavior. They think that because they’re “once saved, always saved,” this is a perfect excuse to be a complete pervert and get away with it.

    • Sheri A Mueller

      So many interactions that Jesus had with women in Scripture were to release them from oppression, not keep them under the weight of it. There are numerous examples. My heart grieves for the twisting of God’s word, pain, and fear that these women and children endured. Prayer for all parties involved is greatly needed.

    • Nessie

      It deeply bothered me in the CT article that they were “discouraging them from reporting abuse to police and directing them to stay in homes where they had been threatened with violence,” and then the church refused to agree to divorce or letting a wife leave because a man hadn’t been convicted…

      “The pastors wanted evidence of physical abuse, “skin to skin” adultery, or a conviction of child molestation before agreeing she had biblical grounds for divorce.”
      “Shannon failed to advise a member of their family to report a man who had confessed to an incident of child molestation; he also did not direct her to leave him, since he hadn’t been convicted.”

      So… basically, advised to NOT report these atrocities, then turn around and say that a family can’t leave because he has no reports with proof against him. Talk about stacking the deck. Disgusting. Sounds like we need a lot of millstones and a lot of these men going out on boats to the depths of the seas…

  5. Kelly

    My heart breaks for women who are abused by church leaders. I got pregnant at 19, outside of marriage. My dad was the collegiate minister on staff at our church at the time. Our pastor sat down with him at the time and told him that I needed to get married. I was no longer in a relationship with the guy. We broke up before I even knew I was pregnant, and was totally ghosted once I told him that I was. But NONE of that mattered to this pastor, if he even knew anything about the situation at all. My dad abruptly ended the meeting by telling the senior pastor to mind his own damn business. But my story has always made me incredibly sad to think that a girl in my same shoes who didn’t have a dad to advocate for her would have likely ended up in a terrible marriage, potentially putting her child in a bad situation as well. My heart breaks for those women.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is awful! I’m glad your dad was good to you.

    • Angharad

      If you glorify anything, it’s then really, really hard to admit that the object of your glorification is wrong in any way. Maybe it’s time the church stopped giving honour to human (and fallible) Christian leaders that should only be given to God? My father had one response for anyone who urged him to glorify any Christian leader – “He didn’t save me – Jesus did” (Not that he wasn’t ready to learn from and respect truly Godly teachers, but he wasn’t going to give them a position of honour that he felt should only belong to Jesus. )

      Learn from Christian teachers as long as what they are teaching lines up with the Bible. Respect Christian leaders as long as their leading is Christlike. But don’t put them on a throne and treat them as if they were perfect. That place belongs to Jesus.

      • Angharad

        (I have no idea why this ended up as a response to Kelly’s comment!)

  6. Mara R


    This is why we do what we do.
    Men perverting justice and claiming that it is God’s will, that this is what Jesus wants for you–
    Men perverting God’s Word and making is say things about women and what women are called to suffer and claiming that this, also, is what Jesus wants for their lives–

    The deep perversion in men like John MacArthur and his unrepentant board of elders is being exposed for what it is and it’s about time. MacArthur’s teachings don’t represent Christ. It is the opposite of what Jesus lived and taught.

    People must stop supporting these perverted men. They are making money off of making a mockery of justice and the Word of God.

    Sorry, it’s WenatcheeTheHatchet fault. He convinced me to read Biblical Porn: Affect, Labor, and Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Evangelical Empire.
    I started it, and as expected, it just keeps making me mad at men who want to control the narrative, claiming that they are just preaching God’s Word. Driscoll claims to be a Biblicalist or Bibleist or something like that. And he uses the Bible a lot as a prop and otherwise. He has people convince that “he preaches the Bible straight” when he doesn’t.
    And neither does MacArthur. Not if his heart is so hard that he dismisses women this easily.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Some people love Jesus. Some people love power. Both use the Bible.

      The question is, do you use the Bible to grow in humility, service, and love? Or do you do it to elevate yourself over others and give yourself power?

      • Jo R

        “Some people love Jesus. Some people love power. Both use the Bible.”

        PREACH!!!!! (And maybe add it to the merch????)

        🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, that’s a good idea!

      • Mara R

        This is true about people loving power and using the Bible.
        It’s so true, this is what motivated the villain in “The Book of Eli” and made him believable.

        Has anyone else here ever seen this post apocalyptic, Denzel Washington movie besides me?

        • Curly Sue

          Yes. Good movie.

      • Melissa W

        Oh my goodness! Sheila, this quote alone needs to be a Facebook post. So good and a perfect example of how we inspect fruit!

  7. JamieLH

    These mofos are accessories to crime.
    Let’s start treating it that way, legally.
    Hit them in the power, wallet, and reputation and see how quickly they change their tune.

    I am DONE with abuse done in God’s loving, compassionate name.

    • Mara R

      The more I see of these MacArthurs, Driscolls and the like, the easier it becomes to compare these guys to religious crime bosses.
      “Escaping Polygamy” on YouTube exposes how the Kingston Clan behave as a religious mafia over their family.
      Watching “Escaping Polygamy” is helping me to see how so-called Evangelical Leaders are on the slippery slope to being pseudo-Christian mobsters in our midst.


      Whatever we can do to expose, expose, expose. I’m all for it. I wouldn’t know how to even start dealing with it legally. That’s beyond my pay grade. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be willing to learn if it was feasible.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think we need some massive lawsuits. Even if the police can’t do anything, the civil courts could. And that would get people’s attention.

  8. Boone

    I hate to break it to y’all but MacArthur is on the more benign end of the fundamentalist spectrum. Google Joe and Evangeline Combs, Hepziba House Survivors and Jack Schaap.
    I sat in on two days of the Combs’ trial twenty years ago up in Sullivan County. Over my legal career I’ve dealt with murders, shootings, knife fights. Ive even seen autopsies but I’ve never dealt with anything that affected me as much as those two days.
    MacArthur is only the tip of the iceberg.

    • Anon

      Are you talking about the really nutty fundies who are lost in Jack Chick Land? The ones who think lizard people are going to take over the world?

      • Boone

        I don’t know anything about lizard people but my four year old grandson is a big fan of Godzilla.
        With these folks if your unsaved ( not a fundy) you’re lower than dirt. Once you repeat the prayer you rise to the level of dirt. Their leaders are “God’s men” and must be obeyed. The entire flock exists to make the leaders look good and to serve them. Everybody is a worthless sinner and therefore of no value.

        • Anon

          “Everybody is a worthless sinner and therefore of no value.”

          More Calvinist bull – that “total depravity” thing. It should come as no shock to anyone here that MacArthur is a notorious Calvinist.

    • Marie

      Add Walt Henrichsen to that list. His Leadership Foundation is alive and well, and there are conferences multiple times a year across the US and China that are affected by his cult of personality: https://leadershipfoundation.org/articles/

  9. Anonymous

    I grew up listening to Moody radio, my mother and father attended the college, I attended the purity conferences and teas and sleepovers and it never felt right. I prayed for discernment as a child and still do as an adult and I believe that is why I never fully accepted all of what I was taught in certain spaces. I now attend Houston’s First, but then you mentioned the church in one of the podcasts I recently came across. We are not members yet, but I am unsure how to navigate joining in terms of what questions to ask to ensure that these things are not happening within the church. I am appalled at what has been happening in other churches, yet not surprised because some leadership actually think they are Biblical, but they aren’t going back to the life and example of Jesus as they should. I do not want to support, do not want to become complicit.

  10. Nathan

    > > I am DONE with abuse done in God’s loving, compassionate name.

    This may sound irreverent, but it applies. Those of you who have read the Narnia books may recall that in the final volume (The Last Battle) a young soldier died and went to Aslan’s Country (aka Heaven). He asked Him how he could be there if he didn’t serve Aslan, but Tash instead. Aslan replied that any good deed done in Tash’s name applied to Aslan, while any evil deed done in Aslan’s name applied to Tash.

    When we abuse or hurt people or allow it to happen for our own power and benefit, we’re NOT serving God or Jesus no matter how loudly our mouths may praise His name.

  11. Darwin

    I would argue that MacArthur is not even a good Bible teacher. He is certainly an adamant preacher of God’s sovereignty, and a faithful adherent to dispensational premillenniumalism. But his teaching lacks nuance, and mostly disregards the historical context of scripture. I’ve listened to dozens of his sermons over the last 2 years and I’ve never heard him just talk through a passage on it’s own terms. There is always some agenda and the scripture is just there to back up the agenda.
    I’ve also gone through the course that Grace Fellowship wrote for new members, and it is no surprise to me that his bad theology ends up supporting abusers and punishing victims. The whole course for membership, and the teaching in it on church leadership is loaded with examples and justification for spiritual abuse.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I would agree.

  12. Karen

    I am feeling so betrayed and wonder now if any of GTY teachings can be trusted. But then we were warned to search the scriptures ourselves to see if what we are taught is true. I did a google search to verify and found a lot more including this https://julieroys.com/macarthur-church-failed-report-kidnapper-child-molester-two-years/. Thankfully my faith is in Jesus who always treated women and children with compassion.

  13. Cynthia

    Horrifying and heartbreaking.

    Unfortunately, the problem is not limited to churches. 3 years ago, a 4 yr old girl in my neighborhood was killed in a murder/suicide by her father. Her mother had tried everything to warn that her daughter was in danger, but was repeatedly and systemically ignored by assessors, child protection agencies and courts. They saw this as a case of “high-conflict” between parents, using a term that places as much blame on the parent who reports abuse as the one being abused. Physical and sexual abuse of the mother and a long pattern of extremely dishonesty were not seen as relevant to parenting. Even the fact that the father kidnapped the baby, when she was still being breastfed, got a slow response from the court and didn’t stop the father from getting substantial unsupervised parenting time.

    There is a tendency to disbelieve, to blame the person reporting a problem for not being nice and to want to believe that if there isn’t visible physical injury, there isn’t abuse.

    As someone who is part of this family law system, I’ve had to do a lot of learning and listening and considering how to do better. There will be a coroner’s inquest into Keira Kagan’s death.


  14. Laura

    After reading the comments here and on social media, I cannot bring myself to read all about the article on MacArthur. I don’t think it would be good for my mental health. As I’ve mentioned here before, I am a survivor of sexual assault in my former marriage and I’ve dealt with sexual harassment during my teen years in the 1990s and at work a few years ago.

    Several years ago, I dealt with a former married male coworker who tried to make a pass at me and when I refused he tried to retaliate against me. I felt like I was in a hostile work environment so I reported him to my assistant director. When I told several friends from church about this, they told me they didn’t think it was a good idea. I just needed to pray and forgive this man. God is more powerful and He’ll protect me so I shouldn’t have to report this man. I am so thankful that I did not listen to them.

    • Angharad

      I’ve had Christians tell me that I should consume a particular allergen (which is literally like poison for me) in faith that it won’t harm me – apparently, that would show that I really trusted God to protect me… Funny thing is that I don’t see them going round drinking weedkiller or eating rat bait, so it seems like their ‘God will protect us if we consume poison’ attitude only holds for other people, not themselves…

      I wonder if those ‘friends’ of yours had felt in danger from a colleague themselves, whether they would have trusted God to protect them…or whether they would have decided that God has given us the ability to make wise choices to help protect ourselves. Somehow, I suspect they’d be choosing the latter option!

  15. Lisa

    “She should submit to her husband ‘as unto the Lord’ rather than provoke him,” that is almost, but not quite, an exact quote from Love & Respect by Eggerichs.

    Gary Thomas wrote similar things in “Sacred Marriage.”

    They’re all complicit.


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